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Proposal to ease tag maintenance

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We should make it easier for trusted users to manage tags. Can we please have some feedback on the following ideas?

  • Creating tags directly (independently of a post): move from mod-only to anyone with the Edit Tags ability.[1]

  • Renaming tags: move from mod-only to anyone with the Edit Tags ability. Is that too dangerous (because it could cause confusion if people aren't coordinating)? On the other hand, an incorrectly-renamed tag can be renamed back to what it was; it's not a destructive operation.

  • Deleting unused tags: move from admin-only to mod-only.

I'm not proposing that we change deleting in-use tags (admin-only) right now, because that's a more destructive operation that probably needs some safeguards. Even people who have the ability generally don't use it. This is an area for further work.

I'm also not proposing that we change merging tags (mod-only) right now. This is a destructive operation.

But meanwhile, does lowering these other thresholds create risks that we need to address?

Note: I am aware that the Edit Tags ability can't currently be earned organically -- this is a long-known problem that we haven't fixed yet. However, moderators can grant abilities directly, so people can still have the Edit Tags ability, so we can meaningfully base feature access on it.


  1. Anybody (with Participate Everywhere, I think) can create a new tag by adding it to a post. Moderators also have a "new" button on the tags page, allowing them to create a tag without adding it to a post. Why would you do that, you might ask? This is helpful when building out tag hierarchies or preparing a set of related tags that you want to make sure follow the same naming convention. ↩︎

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1 comment thread

Is tag creation actually limited? (2 comments)

2 answers

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Maybe to address some safety/security concerns wihtout burdening admins/mods too much it could be useful to add a "tier 2" tag privilege.

Leave the current edit tag privilege as is (just adding the ability to create new tags) and create a more "powerful" privilege, e.g. "manage tags", that would grant further, more dangerous, capabilities.

In particular, "tag managers" should be able to:

  • Rename tags.
  • Deleting unused tags.
  • Suggest deleting a tag (it would need a queue for admins/mods, but it would streamline requests without cluttering meta).
  • Suggest merging a tag (needs another queue).

This tier 2 privilege should be much more hard to earn or even be granted by mods choice alone, so to ensure only really trusted users are allowed.

EDIT

After doing lots of work on tags clean-up on EE.CD I found that point 2 above is of paramount importance for ease of management. After retagging a lot of questions with more sensible tags, I found myself with a lot of 0-question tags that had to be deleted for a number of reasons:

  • They were typos or trolling, so their deletion is warranted.
  • They should be synonyms of previously existing or newly created tags, so they must be deleted before adding them as synonyms.
  • They are too specific, too generic or ambiguous, so they should be blacklisted (with the workaround I'm experimenting, they have to be added as synonyms to some "do-not-use" tag I created for this purpose).

Without the ability to delete such "orphaned" tags, tags management becomes extremely clunky and involves escalating to mods or devs, so it is also wasteful of "higher level" resources.

However, since it is potentially destructive (in a more convoluted way than a plain deletion) it needs more privilege.

Note: the question number should be the "net" number, not counting the deleted questions. As of this writing the tags pages show numbers that include also deleted questions that don't show up when you click the tag. These shouldn't prevent deletion of the tag by users with this tier-2 privilege.

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0 comment threads

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This is perhaps a longer term solution, with slightly broader scope than the question, but I'm mentioning it for consideration since the question made me think of it. It still makes sense to implement the more specific changes suggested in the question in the meantime.

Trust, but implement undo

Non-destructive changes

Make tag management more reversible. If we make it possible to undo the changes that are currently considered destructive, then there will be less need to keep them admin-only or moderator-only. Even deletion of an in-use tag could be reversible.

Tag history

This should also make tags more auditable. Undo requires a history. If we keep a history for each tag, it will be easier to analyse incorrect usage of the tag management abilities (whether malicious or unintentional).

Trust more people

This may make it feasible to extend some of the tag management abilities to even more people than suggested in the question.

For example:

  • Deleting a tag that is in use (has live questions) is currently admin only. With undo it could be made available to moderators too.
  • Renaming a tag is currently moderator only. The question hesitantly suggests allowing users with the Edit Tags ability to do this too. With undo we wouldn't need to be as hesitant.

Note that new users would still need to earn the Edit Tags ability. Undo wouldn't mean trusting everyone immediately. It would just allow trusting a user a little sooner.

No more 5 tag limit

The problem

If a post has 5 tags, and then one of the tags is deleted (so it disappears from all posts), now the post has only 4 tags. This means another tag can be added to it, so it has 5 tags again. This causes a problem if the deleted tag is restored: It should now reappear on all the posts it disappeared from, but that would give this post 6 tags.

The solution

Removing the limit on number of tags removes this problem.

Now deleting a tag can be a non-destructive action that simply labels the tag as "deleted" in the database. Each post that previously had that tag still points to it in the database, but only live tags (those not labelled as "deleted") will be visible under a post in the user interface.

More reasons for no limit

The 5 tag limit is arbitrary and artificial - there is no reason to settle on 5 rather than 4 or 6. This is a vestigial artefact carried over from Stack Exchange, which we can discard when we are ready to.

There is such a thing as too many tags on a post, but how many is too many will vary from post to post. This is a subjective decision which should be managed by the community using human judgement, rather than being encoded as a fixed limit.

Other examples of where removing the 5 tag limit would be helpful:

  • A Meta post that already has 5 tags can have a "status-completed" tag added without having to remove one of the existing tags.
  • A Proposals post can have 5 tags in addition to its proposed community name tag, rather than Proposals posts being unintentionally limited to 4 tags.

As there is more than 1 reason to consider changing the 5 tag limit, I have also raised a separate Meta discussion Assessing the 5 tag limit.

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1 comment thread

OK for most that you say, but I strongly disagree with "more trust+undo" policy. (7 comments)

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